Top EdSurge Higher Education Stories of 2019

Dec 26, 2019

Before we usher in a new decade and bid adieu to 2019, here’s a look back at the most popular EdSurge higher education stories of the year.

The Varsity Blues admissions scandal made headlines here and elsewhere for months, and indeed, our story about the ringleader’s international intrigues registered as one of our most-read pieces of 2019.

But our readers also showed deep interest in less sensational stories, too. They read about studies that put to the test a popular teaching theory—“growth mindset”—and a Gates-backed advising program—iPASS. They listened on our podcast to a top writing instructor explain why today’s students struggle to write well. And they flocked to a column about how prestigious universities have the advantage when it comes to attracting students to online graduate programs.

Thank you for reading, and have a happy new year!

2019 Top 10 Countdown

10. To Get More Students to Office Hours, Colleges Rethink the Faculty Office by Jeffrey R. Young

“Faculty make their offices their own personal domain—It’s like my bathroom or my bedroom or my kitchen or my house,” says Robert Talbert, a professor at Grand Valley State University, who adds that the spaces can essentially turn into “man-caves.” Here’s a look at efforts to rethink the faculty office, with the goal of making them more inviting to students.

9. Hoping to Spur ‘Learning Engineering,’ Carnegie Mellon Will Open-Source Its Digital-Learning Software by Jeffrey R. Young

Carnegie Mellon University made its adaptive learning platform and dozens of related software tools available under a free and open-source license. The effort to build the tools over more than a decade cost nearly $100 million, and officials said the goal is to spark a “learning engineering” approach to teaching. The systems could provide a free alternative to commercial software.

8. Report: Gates Foundation’s College Advising Initiative Had Little Impact on Students by Tony Wan

Since 2013, the Gates Foundation has funded colleges and companies for its Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) initiative, which supports data analytics and technology tools that help college advisors. But a Gates-funded study found that these efforts have “not yet produced discernible positive effects on students’ academic performance.”

7. Predictions of Print Textbooks’ Death Remain Greatly Exaggerated by Wade Tyler Millward

For decades the demise of print textbooks has seemed imminent: Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs marked them for extinction almost a century apart. Not so fast, say education companies, retailers and students. Even as traditional publishers transition to digital formats, paper and ink have proven stubbornly resilient.

6. Ringleader of Admissions Scam Also Ran a College Counseling Firm For Families in China by Jeffrey R. Young

William “Rick” Singer, the man at the center of the Varsity Blues college-admissions fraud plot, had a global footprint. He was listed as co-chairman of a Los Angeles-based college counseling firm serving students in China hoping to get into selective colleges in the U.S. It was not listed in filings by federal investigators, but soon after EdSurge reached out to its leaders, the company’s website was taken down or removed.

5. New Study Shows Where ‘Growth Mindset’ Training Works (And Where It Doesn’t) by Jeffrey R. Young

The notion that students can learn more if they adopt a “growth mindset”—meaning they believe that anyone can learn if they work hard—has gained national attention thanks to books and TED talks by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor. A national study, published August in the journal Nature, offered the largest test yet of whether the approach works and in what situations.

4. So You Want to Offer an Income-Share Agreement? Here’s How 5 Colleges Are Doing It. by Sydney Johnson

Coding bootcamps have taken to income-share agreements by storm, the model where students give back a cut of their paychecks as tuition. And recently, traditional higher-ed institutions are trying out ISAs too—albeit for different reasons than for-profit career accelerators. Here’s a look at how the terms compare and differ across five universities.

3. Why Students Can’t Write — And Why Tech Is Part of the Problem by Jeffrey R. Young

Writing is more important than ever, but today’s students are lousy at it. Longtime writing instructor and author John Warner has some ideas about why that is—and how to fix it. EdSurge talked with Warner for this episode of the EdSurge On Air podcast about the crisis in writing instruction, including why he thinks FitBits are part of the problem.

2. 5 Years Since Starbucks Offered to Help Baristas Attend College, How Many Have Graduated? by Rebecca Koenig

Five years ago, Starbucks teamed up with Arizona State University to offer the coffee company’s employees an extra shot of opportunity by covering nearly all their tuition costs for online bachelor’s degrees. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan set a big goal: reach 25,000 graduates by 2025. EdSurge explored how the program has paid off for employees, the university and the beverage giant.

1. As Grad Degrees And Credentials Boom, Prestigious Schools Are Winning by Sean Gallagher

The college admissions scandal focused attention on selectivity in admissions. But something very different has been happening in graduate education. There’s an online credential and grad degree boom, and the most prestigious institutions seem to have the advantage, argues Sean Gallagher, executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy and executive professor of educational policy.

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